In the commercial, an ominous, floating picture of Sarah Palin fills the screen while a woman’s voice urgently says, “The same tea party billionaires who funded [attacks on public unions in Ohio and Wisconsin] are funding Prop. D in San Francisco.”
Proposition D is a pension-reform proposal that is the brainchild of Public Defender Jeff Adachi and was put on November’s ballot because some 50,000 people signed a petition. Adachi’s measure is at odds with Proposition C, a pension-reform proposal that is endorsed by city unions. There are important differences between them. Ones that should be debated, discussed and reflected upon. But Prop. C using the slogan, “San Francisco is No Tea Party Town” strikes me as odd.
Let’s talk about these “tea party billionaires” who have each given $250,000 to the Prop. D campaign: Michael Moritz and George Hume.
According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, Moritz did not contribute to any Wisconsin folks, but he did give $11,000 to Ohio Republican John Kasich’s gubernatorial race and $24,000 to the Ohio Republican Party in 2010. That same year, George Hume gave $2,500 to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and a combined total of $2,000 to four Republican Wisconsin state senators.
But does this mean they only give to Republicans? Are they really tea party members?
Hume has donated $500 (the maximum amount) to Ed Lee for Mayor. Remember that Lee is Prop. C’s biggest champion. Hume has also donated to Feinstein for Senate, John Kerry for President, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and even gave $1,000 to the Friends of Hillary Clinton.
Moritz supported Matt Gonzales over Gavin Newsom in the 2003 mayoral race, and donated thousands to Equality California for the campaign to defeat Proposition 8. He has also contributed to Obama for America, and other Democratic candidates for office.
While Moritz and Hume have contributed to Republican candidates, too, I think it’s fair to say neither of these men would be welcome at a tea party meeting.
But Moritz and Hume aren’t the only rich people who give to both parties. Prop. C is mostly funded by public employee unions, but wealthy Warren Hellman is lending his support with $154,500 dollars in contributions so far. Hellman has contributed to Republican candidates in New York and Hawaii and even right here in California. For example, Hellman donated $50,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 and $20,000 to (George W. Bush-backed) Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan in 2002.
Know who else gave money to Riordan that year? George Hume.
I haven’t decided on whether to vote for Prop. C, Prop. D or both. But when I do vote, it will not be because of some silly fear-mongering advertisement. Pointing to the other guy and yelling “tea party!” from inside a glass house is an insulting campaign strategy that should be retired.
Schools leave real estate funds untapped
Proposition A on this November’s ballot would authorize the issuance of $531 million dollars in general obligation bonds for the San Francisco Unified School District. General obligation means they are repaid with San Francisco property taxes.
Is it just me, or have we been here before? In 2003, 2006 and again in 2008, massive revenue measures have been passed by voters for the purposes of funding and fixing our schools. This is in addition to the millions in rainy-day funds that are given to the district each year because of sudden budget problems. I say, “given” because the school system is a state entity. We can’t really tell it what to do with the money it receives, though state law requires certain oversight for bond money.
In 2009, The City’s civil grand jury issued a report called, “Use it or Lose it: A Report on the Surplus Real Property Owned by the San Francisco Unified School District.” It seems that dwindling numbers of students since 1978 has resulted in shuttered schools that are still owned by the district. At least 10 parcels have been designated “surplus” by an advisory committee set up by the school district to study the problem from 2006-07.
According to representatives of the school district, selling the property is complicated, and in some cases, state law restricts the use of money from the sale of real property.
The grand jury report concluded that, “The city and county of San Francisco should not allocate to the SFUSD any further ‘rainy day’ or ‘bail out’ funds until such time as the SFUSD has sold the properties it already identified as surplus.”
Believing that this conclusion was a bit harsh, in November 2009 the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking that the school district “bring its surplus property disposition plan(s) before the Joint City and School District Select Committee in a timely manner for review and consideration.”
No such plans have ever been presented to that committee.
The grand jury report does not estimate how much money could be made from the sale or lease of surplus school property, so I’m not necessarily suggesting that people vote against Prop. A. I’m merely suggesting that, as the grand jury report stated, “the SFUSD is poised to waste the extraordinary amount of time and money that has already gone into determining how to dispose of or manage some of its real property. The SFUSD should take the remaining critical steps.”